Village People, YMCA. 1978.
This song was gay as Hell. Produced by Jacques Morali, a producer who was also gay as Hell. This represents what the gay scene in LA, San Fransisco and New York was like in the 1970’s. Cruising? Check. Short haircuts? Check. Little moustaches? Check. They all looked alike, which was why they were called The Castro Clones after San Fransisco’s uber-gay Castro District.
Each character plays a typical gay icon or stereotype. The muscleman, the leatherman, the construction worker, the cowboy – these are all get-ups that gay men warp into when they go out cruising for sex. Like dress-up theater with lots of perverted sex.
It’s all fantasy, but then gay male life is mostly fantasy anyway, right? How much of it is actually real? Probably not much.
Gay life is all illusion.
The old ones comfort themselves by buying the young Peter Pans. No one wants the fat ones. Forget the ugly ones. You think straight women are superficial? They’ve got nothing on gay men.
You’re a gay man. By the time you’re 30, you’re nearly washed up, and you’re already not prime meat. Hit 40 and it’s over. Nobody wants the old ones. In your 50’s, neither you nor your friends are getting much. By old age, you’re already dead. Most don’t make it to old age. I saw one figure that said only 2% of gay men live past age 65.
Gay life is like a meteor. It burns white hot bright for a bit, then it’s over with cruel bang and a fade to pure nothingness.
This was a somewhat homophobic era, but it was more in the sense that homosexuality was the worst thing that a man could be, so no one would ever suggest that about you unless they had some pretty good evidence. The default was straight and everyone was straight until proven otherwise.
Effeminate men were not well-liked. I was in a class with the girlfriend who liked my scarf below, and she hated an effeminate openly bisexual man in the group. She said he gave her the creeps.
Mostly you never saw or even heard of gay men, so why talk about them? Homosexuality was the “unthinkable,” the “unspoken.”
Everyone makes fun of disco, but I was way off into it. People called me a disco duck. Velvet pants, silk shirts, corded belts, silk and cotton scarves, four inch high purple platform heels. I was all set to dance the night away.
Thing was back in the disco era, you could wear all that stuff, and no one would think you were gay. Well, most people wouldn’t. Even back then, there were a few ugly homophobes, but they weren’t common. Most people weren’t like that.
Anyway, gay men don’t dress like that. Nor do women. No woman dresses like that. It’s like the Dolls, totally unique, the true pure androgynes of the disco, glitter and glam rock era.
I worked as a valet car parker at a disco in 1976. We were required to turn all of the tips in to the head valet for some stupid reason. My friend and I thought that was bullshit, and since we were both semi-criminals like any young man worth his salt, we devised a scheme to steal a lot of the tips from him.
My friend had hatchback truck, and we left the rear hatchback unlocked. We would go by his truck on our way back to the valet grounds and throw a certain amount of the bills into the back of the truck. Then we would give the boss a certain amount of the rest.
We monitored it all the time because he always called us crooks and suspected us of stealing from him, but he could never prove it, and that really pissed him off.
We figured out how to turn in just enough tips to make it seem kosher while still stealing as much as we could. We were always talking about how much to steal and adjusting the amount we gave back to him based on his suspicions du jour.
I told you being a criminal is fun, right? The rush is like no other. That wild excitement, combined with sheer horror! crime’s a blast. The thrill of getting away with it. The fear of getting caught. Adrenaline junkies love it.
We ripped off that poor guy for months and he could never prove it! He kept grumbling that we were ripping him off while we swore with our best lying poker faces that we gave him every nickel.
We were revolutionaries in a sense. We thought it was disgustingly unfair that we had to turn all of our tips in to him. Don’t tipped workers usually get to keep all their tips? He represented the bosses and we were the poor afflicted proletarians. Valets of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your tips!
At the end of the night, we would open up the back of the truck, dive into the glorious pile of bills, and count the loot. It was usually a pretty good haul. Sometimes we got $5, $10’s, $20’s, even a $50. Disco ducks had money to burn and liked to throw it around for whatever reason.
Remember this was when a record album cost $4, and a ski lift ticket cost $8. A concert ticket was maybe $10. Everything was dirt cheap and more or less affordable. Now none of those things are affordable. Only if you’re rich. It was a special time.
The idea that being dressed like me above meant you were gay was a joke. Women loved outfits like that. I had women tell me that when they saw me with that cotton scarf on, they wanted to jump on me right there.
Back then a guy dressed I was above was the opposite of gay. He might drive a Porsche. There he was, sniffing lines of coke in the backseat of his sports car in the dirt parking lot of the damned disco itself with two gorgeous model types all slutted up, one ready to suck his cock before the other one fucked him. This is how men like that lived.
There was not a lot of homosexuality in the disco scene. I believe that discos were divided into gay and straight because the gay men sure had their discos all right. But so did we. The discos we went to were the straight discos. The men all disco ducks, the women all disco sluts. Pure hedonism, 1970’s style. We thought the night would never end. Then the 80’s hit, and it was all gone as fast as it started.